I SAW THIS SIGN on the subway:
The caption, which I wasn’t able to photograph in full, reads,
In 2050, the first spoken language in the world will be French
As an uncredentialled but 100% reliable brainologist, I point out that this sign does not say French will be the most-spoken language. But your brain processes it that way. And the creators of this sign, who are probably credentialed French brainologists, know this, and take advantage. I’m not saying this sign is lying. My point is much less bold and much less controversial than that …
Those French people are sneaky
We all know the world’s most spoken language is Mandarin, as this chart from Saint Ignatius High School shows.
I’m no expert, so I’m not going to argue with Jesuits. They have those long rulers, and they don’t mind using them on you when you say res, rerum, rei, rem, rebus instead of res, rei, rei, rem, re. But the thing about the experts is that they all say different things, because there are many variables when it comes to determining the status of a language. Here’s another chart.
This is from Infoplease, and I cite it for the scholarly reason that I like how polite it is. For related reasons, I also found but did not use the chart at JustGiveMeTheDamnInfoAlready dot com.
On the first chart, French barely sneaks in at number eleven, and on the second there is no mention of French at all. If this were one of those Casey Kasem countdowns, Chinese would be Katy Perry and French would be whoever takes Katy Perry’s clothing to the laundromat and brings her café latté.
How is French going to become the “first spoken language in the world” in thirty-six years, when it’s so busy right now giving Katy Perry a bikini wax?
If you were wondering this yourself, you’re in luck, because I have your answer. Here is a USA Today article:
Yeah, okay—the author spelled a former French colony wrong and listed a country as being in Africa when it wasn’t. But the smart editors caught these little whoopsies, after readers sent them emails explaining that Canada is totally, like, in North America.
According to the Africa scholars at USA Today, the source of this 2050 “first spoken language” stuff is a study by the investment bank Natixis, in France. And who knows more about languages and the future than bankers? I mean, they trade in futures. When I was a kid, I traded in hockey cards, and boy did I know hockey cards.
According to the criteria used by the Natixis study, I myself speak French—because French is an official language in Canada
Once again, here’s USA Today:
France colonized a lot of countries, many of them in Africa. In Mali, Guinea, Chad and Democratic Republic of Congo, French is the language of the education system. And the population of these countries is growing fast.
So if you’re riding the Toronto subway and wondering what’s the fast-track to a career in the Democratic Republic of Congo, well, VoilaLearning has your answer.
Which got me wondering about the opportunities I’m missing out on by not learning French and moving to the DRC.
It’s pretty obvious what happened here. The VoilaLearning folks saw the Natixis study and realized it gave them a way to put the words French and first together. So they bought a bunch of coloured pencils, a cup, and two pairs of those Harry Potter glasses. Then they told a kid to pretend he was being robbed at gunpoint by Anglophones and photographed the whole thing.
In English, it’s called a coup.
Voilà, I’m on Twitter. Et, voilà, my book